Santa Fe is situated at 7,000 feet in the foothills of the southern Rocky Mountains. With sweeping inclines, desert landscape, and rich cultural history and art scene, Santa Fe is one of those magical places. They don’t call New Mexico The Land of Enchantment for nothing. I’ve put together a list of all the things you’ll want to make sure to not forget, what to wear in each season, as well as a list of what NOT to bring.
What to Pack for Santa Fe- 17 Essentials
1. Hiking Boots
I hiked for years without a good pair of hiking boots. At first, it was because I was a college student on a budget tagging along on hikes. Then, it was because I discovered Chacos and loved feeling connected to the ground in open-toed shoes. While I still love Chacos, there are hikes that really require close-toed shoes. If you haven’t yet, consider purchasing a trustworthy pair of hiking boots ahead of your next trip.
2. Packing Cubes
I don’t know where I would be without packing cubes. They’ve saved me time, money, and the energy of searching through my bag for that *one* pair of lightweight pants, only to realize that they’re wrinkled because everything shifted during travel and they weren’t packed properly. Packing cubes are incredibly helpful, whether you’re a frequent traveler or just trying to make sure you’re more organized on vacation.
3. Virtual Private Network (VPN)
A VPN is a must when traveling. Whether you’re working from a coffee shop or need to check your bank statement, making sure you have a VPN ahead of your trip ensures that you aren’t blindsided with, “I don’t have a secure way to check this” moments. VPNs keep your information safe and secure.
4. Leather Daypack
Some people are able to travel with very small handbags and wallets I will never be one of those people. If you’re leaving for the day with your camera, water bottle, and a cardigan for cool evenings, you’ll want a bag that’s both stylish and has lots of storage. This backpack is also large enough for a small laptop and is gender-neutral.
5. Quick-Dry Travel Towel
Microfiber towels make all of the difference when you’re traveling. Whether you’re hiking, camping, at the beach, or at the gym, these towels are made for travelers. A towel that dries 10x faster than cotton not only keeps you dry but helps reduce the less pleasant “wet, sandy towels in the backseat” part of a beach trip.
6. LifeStraw Water Bottle
If you’re going to be hiking in Santa Fe, you don’t want to have to worry about whether or not the hiking water stations have adequate filtration, or how much dirt is in the river water. Packing a water bottle with built-in filtration ensures that no matter what your travels bring, you can stay hydrated (and eco-friendly)!
7. Travel Insurance for Santa Fe
Whether you’re flying internationally or domestically, it’s a good idea to have travel insurance to make sure that you’re covered. TraveIInsurance.com allows you to compare options, has helpful Travel Tip blogs for different, “What If” scenarios, and guarantees best prices. The last thing you want is to be ill-prepared if and when the continued pandemic impacts your travel plans.
8. Cooling Towel
I remember the days of filling up my water bottle at summer camp and wetting my bandana to try to keep my neck cool in the summer heat. A cooling towel is that same concept, but cooler. It’s made of fast-drying microfiber, is hypoallergenic, and is designed to provide 30-60 minutes of cooling relief. Which if you’re out in the desert midday, makes an immense difference.
9. Cute Summer Dress
Whether you’re walking around Santa Fe’s downtown Plaza or out grabbing dinner, a travel-friendly, cute summer dress is something you’ll want to add to your packing list. This highly-rated cotton dress has major bohemian vibes. It’s off-the-shoulder, has pockets, and comes in five different colors that will match virtually any accessories.
10. Neck Wallet
A neck wallet is one of those things that you hope you won’t need, but is always a good idea to take while traveling, both for safety and organization. With spaces for your phone, cards, ID, and cash, you won’t have to worry about which pocket or backpack you left your wallet in.
11. Wide Brimmed Hat
Santa Fe is warm and sunny, averaging 325 sunny days a year. Sun straw hats not only keep the sun off your face, but they’re one of those accessories that really make an outfit pop. And before you start thinking about storage this one is also foldable, making it a breeze while packing. With 50+ UV protection and an adjustable chin strap, it’s both cute and functional.
12. Moleskine Journal
There’s nothing like a beautiful, durable journal. With its travel-friendly hardcover and an assortment of colors, Moleskine is my personal favorite. I’ve been gifted a lot of journals, but this one is tried and true for me. Whether you’re jotting down ideas for your itinerary or writing poetry, using a journal instead of a notes app on your phone has the potential to help you slow down and soak in the beauty of Santa Fe.
13. Windproof Travel Umbrella
While Santa Fe summers are generally hot and sunny, it gets rainy too! Any place with mountains has the potential for afternoon rainstorms, and the last thing you want is to get caught in the rain without an umbrella. This windproof travel umbrella is lightweight, portable, and also comes with a lifetime replacement guarantee, so when it rains, you’re covered.
14. Breakout Patches
Breakouts are one of those things that are more likely when it’s least convenient—when you’re on vacation and your skin doesn’t know what to do with the rapid environmental changes from the plane or the topography. These are my personal go-to’s, with compact hydrocolloid and salicylic acid patches. Leave on whichever you need overnight, and your jet-lagged self will be on your way back to being breakout free.
15. Nature Poetry Book
Whether or not you read poetry, Santa Fe’s sweeping landscape has a grounding, calming effect. Bringing along or purchasing a nature poetry book like this one by award-winning, Indigenous, and University of New Mexico grad poet Joy Harjo will add depth and beauty to your travels, whether you’re starting your morning with a cup of coffee or getting back from a hike and looking to reflect.
16. Portable Charger
Portable chargers come in a lot of shapes and sizes, but making sure you have a lipstick-sized, compact charger that will fit into the smallest handbag or backpack compartment makes all the difference while traveling. This one also comes with an 18-month warranty, guaranteeing you’re covered on any upcoming trip or hike.
17. Wrinkle Release Spray
When you travel a lot, you realize that no matter how much you carefully roll your clothing and use packing cubes, wrinkles happen. Including a travel-size wrinkle release spray both gives your clothes a refresher and smoothes out wrinkles, so you can spend more time out and about Santa Fe instead of trying to find an iron.
What to Wear in Santa Fe
Santa Fe is warm and sunny in the summer, so you’ll want to make sure you pack breathable, lightweight layers, especially if you’re hiking. Bike shorts with pockets pair nicely with a crop workout tank or a loose, breathable workout tank. Make sure you’ve got sturdy hiking boots or athletic shoes with traction.
While shopping in the Plaza or at the Farmer’s Market, dress however you’re most comfortable, with a summer dress or a nice top and jeans. Packing space tip: find a swimsuit cover-up that can double as a light cardigan, the perfect accessory for any outfit. If you’re in Santa Fe in the winter, make sure you’ve got your snow gear and winter coat with you.
Santa Fe is warm in the summer and cold and snowy in the winter. If you’re out hiking in the summer, make sure you’ve got a hat and a packable rain jacket for possible summer afternoon thunderstorms.
If you’re out at a nice dinner in the Plaza, you can always opt for a button-down, chino pants, and dress shoes. When you’re skiing, make sure you have your base layers and proper snow gear.
Dressing for the Seasons in Santa Fe
Santa Fe is semi-arid with four seasons, so even though it’s somewhat of a desert climate, you’ll still get a lot of snow in the winter. Averaging 325 sunny days a year, prepare for lots of blue skies and sunshine, as well as the occasional mountain summer thunderstorm.
Spring – March, April, May
Summer – June, July, August
Temperatures in July and August generally range from 80-90℉. It only gets above 90℉ 3-6 days out of the year. The rainy season is generally July-August with those signature mountain afternoon thunderstorms, so make sure to bring your rain jacket with you.
Fall – September, October, November
Winter – December, January, February
Snowy season in Santa Fe is generally from November through April, with an average of 32 inches of snow in town and up to 300 inches in the mountains. Temperatures dip down to 17℉ in January.
If you’re hiking in the summer in Santa Fe, you’ll want to make sure you have plenty of water, snacks, and sunscreen even though temperatures won’t get as hot as Arizona or Texas, the higher elevation and similar desert landscape can still easily be hotter than anticipated.
Both men and women can wear quick-dry pants or shorts, and athletic tops. Whether or not you opt for long-sleeves with UV protection is up to each person. Sturdy hiking boots are recommended for steep inclines.
If you’re skiing in Santa Fe, you’ll want to make sure you’ve brought your thermal base layers, insulated bib overalls, and winter coat. Check the temperatures and estimated snow ahead of time, and plan accordingly.
If you’re checking out the art scene in Santa Fe, it’s generally more laid back, so feel free to dress however you feel comfortable. If you enjoy dressing up a bit, pair a bohemian skirt with your favorite tank top, or pair your favorite button-down with chinos.
What NOT to Bring to Santa Fe
1.DON’T Bring Lots of Books
Bringing a lot of books you’ve been meaning to read on vacation might seem like a great idea, but you’ll feel the weight after you finish reading them and have the added weight of your coolest art find. I’d recommend bringing one or two and having your Kindle with you.
2.DON’T Bring Lots of Cash
There’s always a possibility of losing cash when you carry it—even if you’re just wearing a new pair of pants that doesn’t have deep enough pockets. You can always keep your cash and cards safe with a neck wallet, but even then, the only time you’ll really want to have cash on hand is if you’re shopping from local vendors.
3.DON’T Bring Too Many Clothes
Try to mix and match clothing that works for multiple occasions, especially if you have access to laundry.
5.DON’T Bring Things Found in Santa Fe
Whether you’re grocery shopping upon arrival or plan to try as much Santa Fe cuisine as possible, there’s no need to bring excess food unless it’s a product that’s hard to find.
6.DON’T Bring Fragile Items
Any time you travel, there’s the possibility of something breaking or spilling, especially if you’re packing a checked suitcase. Opt for single-use fragrances you can find in beauty catalogs instead of your full-size perfume, or try a solid cologne. The fewer breakable items you take with you and the more you adapt while traveling, the more you’ll enjoy your trip.
FAQs about Santa Fe
1. What’s the weather like in Santa Fe?
Santa Fe’s 7,000 ft altitude means that it’s a good idea to stay hydrated and plan to adjust to the higher altitude. This also means that it can get chilly even though Santa Fe gets a lot of sunshine. With an average of 325 sunny days a year, Santa Fe generally boasts lots of blue skies and sunshine, as well as the occasional mountain summer thunderstorm. The numerous sunny days and high elevation make it super important to wear sunscreen.
2. What are the best things to do in Santa Fe?
Santa Fe has something for everyone: whether you’re looking to get away and enjoy a quiet retreat, check out the art scene, the margarita scene, or go hiking (or all of the above). New Mexico isn’t called “The Land of Enchantment” for nothing. If you’re in Santa Fe over the weekend, check out the farmer’s market.
3. What are some can’t-miss hiking spots in Santa Fe?
The Santa Fe National Forest has some really beautiful hiking trails. Atalaya Mountain Trail is a popular, just over 6 miles out and back trail with almost 1,800 ft elevation gain and incredible views at the top. Don’t forget to bring water and snacks, and wear sunscreen. Nambe Lake Trail has lovely views as well. The sheer amount of natural beauty surrounding Santa Fe means there are tons of awesome spots to hike.
4. What’s the best time of year to visit Santa Fe?
The best time of year to visit Santa Fe depends on your travel plans. Are you hiking, seeing the city, and visiting museums? The weather in Santa Fe is semi-arid and lovely for hiking much of the year. If you’re skiing or snowboarding, you’ll want to plan a winter trip, and hikes would be limited in the winter.
5. What coffee shops should I visit in Santa Fe?
If you’re looking for a coffee shop with lots of workspaces, high ceilings, and pour-over options, you’ll likely spend most of your time at Iconik Coffee Roasters. If you’re looking for a cozy independent bookshop to enjoy a latte in, Collected Works will likely be your cup of tea. The historic center is super quaint and has plenty of cute coffee shops to visit.
6. What museums should I visit in Santa Fe?
Canyon Road is can’t miss with 100 galleries and restaurants all along the half-mile street—it’s the third largest art market in the US. From the beautiful Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, the New Mexico Museum of Art, the eclectic and much-talked about Meow Wolf, the Museum of Indian Arts & Culture, SITE Santa Fe…it almost does a disservice to name museums when there’s such a rich, beautiful world of art in a single city. Do your own research and make sure to set aside significant time for the Santa Fe art scene.
7. How many days should I spend in Santa Fe?
While itineraries vary, if possible, I would recommend 5-7 days in Santa Fe. There’s so much to do and so many beautiful places to hike and just rest and take in the views. If you’re looking for a destination to practice contemplation and meditation, the sweeping deserts, architecture, and culture of Santa Fe is a beautiful place to travel to, learn from, and find inspiration.